Friday, February 05, 2016

Ross Porter Back to Calling Baseball - for CSU, Northridge


Ross Porter is a name many younger Dodgers fans do not know, but for those of us who still vividly remember the days before the McCourt era his name should still ring blissfully in your ear.  For 28 years, from 1977 to 2004, he was the Dodgers play-by-play announcer.  He sat alongside Vin Scully in the broadcast booth, and even hosted both pre- and post-game "Dodger Talk" broadcasts for fourteen years.  Then, unceremoniously, he was fired by the club, and to this day still doesn't know who or why he was fired.  Heck, no one in the organization (which was in the first year of the McCourt ownership) even contacted him directly about it.  Such was the McCourt ownership.

Now, some twelve years later, Ross Porter will be back on the airwaves to call some Baseball.  This time it will be for CSU, Northridge.  Per a press release:
“I am thrilled to be asked by CSUN to announce their home baseball games this year. It’s a great chance for me to do what I love,” said Porter. “I’m excited to do it for a wonderful university like CSUN and to be associated again with young men who are passionate about baseball. I have been able to spend time getting to know the team and find them to be outstanding young student-athletes.”
Porter is slated to call 18 of the 28 Northridge home Baseball games this coming season.  The remaining ten home games, along with all of the schools softball games, will be called by radio and play-by-play broadcaster Brandon Marcus.  You can listen to it all streaming at the CSUN Sports Network.

BTW, for those who recall, Ross Porter had a penchant for passing along statistical information during his Dodgers broadcasts, so I suspect he'll be do the same for Northridge.  No doubt the sabermetrically-inclined Matador fan will enjoy what he has to say. 

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2016 Topps Baseball Series One - The MLB Debut, No Hitter Pin and Perspectives Cards

Now we get to take some time to look at the various Dodgers' inserts available in 2016 Topps Series 1 packs.  Below are all of the MLB Debut, No-Hitter Pin Relic and Perspective insert cards. 

Of note are a couple cards of Mike Piazza in a Dodger uniform.  Also the Yasiel Puig "Perspective" card reminds us that he was the cover-boy for the MLB15 video game last season.

MLB Debut (Retail only)

#MLBD-18 Sandy Koufax                        #MLBD-25 Mike Piazza

2016 Topps Baseball Series One - The Dodgers Short Printed Base Variations

I erred a bit in my post yesterday featuring pics of the Dodgers base cards within packs of 2016 Topps Series 1.  I initially wrote that there was only one Dodger variation available.  That is wrong.  There are actually two known variation cards available, and as time goes by there may be more.  So, I'll certainly update this post should more pop up.  In the meantime, take a look at the Puig and Kershaw variations below.  As you can see I paired each variation with its normal base card.


BTW, it does not appear that there will be any "sparkle" or "sabermetric back" variations in this set.  All the variations seen so far feature different photos.

#139 Yasiel Puig

Base Card                                      SSP Variation

#150 Clayton Kershaw

Base Card                                             SSP Variation

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Blog Kiosk: 2/5/2016 - Dodgers Links - Some Odds and Ends


The best vintage press photos are not always action shots of your favorite player.  Oftentimes, it's these quirky little stories that really make you smile.  Case in point, check out the July 13, 1954 Associated Press photo above that I ran into on eBay.  It features Carl Furillo with a 13-year old Brooklyn Dodger fan named Danny Gawronski.  At first glance, you might think that his presence on the field with the Dodger icon is of little significance.  Instead, he's the subject of some local controversy that will no doubt make you laugh.  Check out what it says on the descriptor attached to the reverse:
"SOMETHING TO CROW ABOUT AFTER ALL.  Danny Gawronski, 13, is as close to heaven as a Brooklyn boy can be, as Carl Furillo of his beloved Dodgers shows him how to use outfielder's glove, a present from the team, during workout at Ebbets Field today. It all started last April when Danny was given some Easter chicks which grew up into noisy roosters and complaints from neighbors which took Danny before a magistrate.  Danny offered $3 in pennies, nickels and dimes he had saved toward a new baseball glove in way of a fine.  Magistrate Charles Murphy dismissed complaint and the Dodgers did the rest."
Now this is a Dodgers good deed I can get behind.  Below are more links to check out:
  • Via Rachel L. Swarns, Darcy Eveleigh and Damien Cave at the NY Times, "Unpublished Black History."  They explore a 1949 photograph featuring Jackie Robinson giving a lecture to some local college kids and they want to know why.
  • ICYMI:  The Howie Kendrick signing was made official yesterday, per a Dodgers press release.
The Los Angeles Dodgers today announced the signing of infielder Howie Kendrick to a two-year contract. 
I had to take the subway home. I lived on Bay Parkway in Brooklyn. It was an elevated station. We had only one Giants fan in our neighborhood. His name was Davey Freed. I got off the train and as I’m walking down the stairs, Davey Freed is at the bottom of the stairs. All he did was laugh. He just laughed. 
  • Blowout Buzz shares some preview pics of Panini's 2016 Donruss Baseball cards; including the Corey Seager card on the right.  This set officially comes out on March 30th.
  • Via Bob Nightengale at USA Today, "Dodgers' Howie Kendrick on MLB free agent system: 'It's hurting everybody'".
“I figured there would be quite a few suitors for me, and nobody was really calling. Here it is, getting close to spring training, and you keep hearing the same thing over and over.

“Nobody wanted to give up that draft pick. It was a shocker.’’

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Thursday, February 04, 2016

2016 Topps Baseball Series One - All the Dodgers Base Cards

As evidenced by Wednesday's official release of Topps 2016 flagship Baseball card set, the new season is clearly upon us.  Within a few short weeks ballplayers will be heading out to their respective Spring homes, and fans the world-over will be carrying around giant stacks of these cards to get signed.  For Dodger fans here's a look at all of the Dodgers' available in the years Series 1 base set.  Go here for a complete checklist.

Of specials note, there appears to be only one short-printed Dodgers variation card available.  It's of Clayton Kershaw and I'll have a pic of it later on.

#11 Andre Ethier

Welcome to the Blue, Raul Ibanez!


Along with Tuesday's Greg Maddux signing, the Dodgers also announced the hiring of slugger Raul Ibanez as an Special Assistant to the Dodgers.  At first glance this appeared to be secondary news when compared to Maddux's hiring.  As I've come to find out, though, Ibanez's addition appears to be every bit as important.

He too was a ballplayer who didn't have the exceptional tools that blew away the competition from the get go.  Instead, he had a drive that caused him to work harder than anybody on the field and the intelligence to play the game at the highest level possible. He had toiled for roughly seven seasons in the minor leagues before finally get his chance to play everyday.  Via an Baseball Prospectus story from 2009:
"He's reached that point in his career where he has figured things out," said a scout who has watched Ibanez since he broke into the majors in 1996. "He has a plan every time he steps into the box, and he's smart, so he adjusts quickly to whatever the pitcher is trying to do to him. Going to the weaker league (the NL) and playing in that bandbox (Citizens Bank Park) in Philadelphia has helped jack his numbers up a little bit, there's no doubt, but he is now one of the smartest hitters in the game. And don't discount what great shape the guy is in. He's in better shape now than when he a kid breaking into the league. He's not a big bulky guy, but he's strong, real strong."
Like Maddux with pitchers, Ibanez might be the perfect teacher for our young hitters.  Per a story by John Mcgrath at the Tacoma News Tribune:
(Lou) Piniella meant Raul Ibanez, whose services as a Mariners’ problem-solver were notable because, for one, Ibanez no longer worked in Seattle – he had signed a free-agent contract with Kansas City after the 2000 season – and, for two, of all the sharp minds around baseball capable of sharing intelligence with him, Piniella’s instant choice was the Royals’ 30-year-old designated hitter.
...
The son of a Cuban-born chemist, Ibanez is smart, with an exceptional baseball IQ. A few months ago, when I asked him what he knew about Ted Williams (who also hit 29 home runs at the age of 41), Ibanez smiled. The Splinter’s book on the science of hitting, he recalled, was a precious childhood possession.  
BTW, Harold Uhlman at Think Blue LA just wrote a fantastic story about Raul Ibanez that is worth checking out.  He notes that Kevin Seitzer's (one of my favorites while growing up) advice early in his career left an indelible mark.
“He gave me a solid foundation,” Ibanez said. “He taught me how to be fluid with my hands, how to hit with my legs and most important, to be stubborn with my approach, trying to hit to left-center.”
What the Dodgers are doing seems rather unprecedented.  They are actively recruiting the best minds in the business; both in the front office level and on the field.  BTW, you can follow Ibanez on twitter here: @RaulIbanezMLB.

In celebration of his becoming a Dodgers I made the above two fantasy cards of him.  I used a photograph taken from the Richard Harbus/for New York Daily News and the 1982 Topps Baseball card design. 

Dodgers Press Release:
Ibañez, 43, will gain his first front-office experience following a 19-year big league career with the Mariners (1996-2000, 2004-08, ‘13), Royals (2001-03, ‘14), Phillies (2009-11), Yankees (2012) and Angels (2014). The 2009 All-Star posted a .272 career batting average with 305 home runs and 1,207 RBI in 2,161 games, while making five postseason appearances during the course of his career. The left-handing hitting outfielder/first baseman was originally selected by the Mariners in the 36th round of the 1992 First-Year Player Draft out of Miami-Dade College.

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Blog Kiosk: 2/4/2016 - Dodgers Links - Some Odds and Ends


Now here are some championship arms.  Featured in the Associated Press press photo above, as found on eBay, are the pitchers of the eventual 1955 World Series Champion Brooklyn Dodgers.  Per the descriptor attached to the reverse:
"DODGER PITCHERS.  Don Newcombe, Billy Loes, Karl Spooner, Don Bessent, Clem Labine and Johnny Podres, left to right, are expected to be the pitchers throwing for the Dodgers in the World Series which gets underway Sept. 28. They're shown off to the side of a work out of the team at Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, N.Y., Sept. 26.  Newcombe is expected to open for the Dodgers, seeking their first World Series title."
The only hurlers missing from the photo are Carl Erskine, Ed Roebuck and Roger Craig.  Below are more links to check out:
  • The newest issue of Dodger Insider magazine will feature Dave Roberts on the cover.  Check it out on the right.  Via Jon Weisman, it will be free!:
There’s a big change coming in 2016 for the Dodgers’ official magazine.

Starting in April, Dodger Insider magazine will be distributed for free at the autogates at every Dodger Stadium regular-season game.
  • Next week the MLB Network will premier a special show featuring former Dodger Dusty Baker; titled "Dusty: A Baseball Journey."  Hosted by Bob Costas, it will air on Tuesday, February 9 at 9:00 p.m. ET. The one-hour program will focus on his childhood and path through Baseball.  You can watch a clip of it here.
  • The 2016 Dodgers yearbook will feature Clayton Kershaw on the cover.  See it on the left.  Via Jon Weisman:
In June, Clayton Kershaw will celebrate his 10th anniversary in the Dodger organization. In turn, the Dodgers are celebrating Kershaw in the 2016 Yearbook.

Publishing at the start of March — in time for the opening game of Spring Training — and available at both Dodger Stadium and Camelback Ranch, the 2016 Yearbook will feature a special 27-page section reminiscing over the divine decade of Kershaw’s life as a Dodger.
  • Via Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com, "Pitching prospects with best combo of tools: Nats' Giolito, Dodgers' Urias obvious leaders; Rockies' Hoffman surprising company."
Urias, No. 4 on the Top 100 and the top lefty on the list, understandably comes in second with a score of 240. He doesn't have the 80 or 70 on his report card like Giolito, but he is consistently plus across the board. Urias' 65 fastball may sit in the low 90s, but he can reach back for more, and it plays up because he commands it to both sides of the plate. Both his big breaking ball and his fading changeup are 60s -- that also allows his fastball to play up. Urias throws all pitches for strikes, thus the 55 grade on his control (it wouldn't surprise anyone if that ended up a 60).
Ibanez is one of those players that most likely should have been consumed by the game. Apparently with little chance of making it to MLB and even less chance of a lengthy career, he defied all the odds. He simply wouldn’t be defeated by a five ounce ball and a 34 inch bat.

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    Wednesday, February 03, 2016

    Weekend Autograph Opportunities: Rick Dempsey, Frank Robinson and Gary Grant

    Here are this weekends autograph opportunities and events throughout the Southland. As always, be sure to check the Blue Heaven Calendar for other events (a link can always be found on the tab at the top of this page, just left of center), and always confirm with the establishment. Everything is subject to change.  Please email me with any tips about upcoming events in Southern California.  As the rest of the week progresses I'll update this post with other events (if there are any) as I become aware of them.  Also, I don't always list every event below, so be sure to check my Calendar.  I always try to favor free signing events over paying events.  Click on any pic to embiggen.

    ---------------------------

    Former Dodgers catcher Rick Dempsey will be signing autographs at Manuel's Original El Tepeyac Cafe this coming Saturday from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM.  Go here for information.
    Manuel's Original El Tepeyac Cafe
    13131 Crossroads Parkway South
    City of Industry, CA

    ---------------------------


    Hall of Famer and one-time Dodger Frank Robinson will be at Frank & Sons to sign autographs on Saturday; from Noon to 1:00 PM.  Go here for information.
    special trading card price:  $49.
    balls, flats and figurines:  $79.
    equipment (caps, helmets, bases, etc):  $99.
    bats & jerseys:  $159.
    inscriptions:  $25.
    JSA Authentication:  $10.
    Frank & Son Collectible Show
    19649 San Jose Ave
    City of Industry, CA 91748

    ---------------------------

    Former Clippers Guard Gary Grant will be signing free autographs in Chino Hills.  Go here for information.  Check out the flyer below.

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    Welcome Back to the Blue, Greg Maddux!


    The mad professor is back.

    And by "MAD" I mean he's one crazy crazy dude.  And by "Professor" I mean he's probably the smartest pitcher to ever play the game.

    Yesterday afternoon the Dodgers announced that they have hired Hall of Famer Greg Maddux as an Special Assistant to the Dodgers’ President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and the entire Baseball Operations Department.  In other words, he'll be tasked with imparting whatever knowledge he has about the game - which I assure you is a lot.  BTW, they also announced at the same time the hiring of recently retired slugger Raul Ibanez, and I'll have an additional post focused on him shortly.  In the meantime, let's talk about Greg Maddux.

    Late last year it was reported by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that Maddux was very likely headed our way, so this news is hardly unexpected.  After all, he lives in Las Vegas and prefers, like most folks, to be closer to home.
    Greg Maddux is expected to join a West Coast team — likely the Dodgers — as a part-time special assistant. Maddux said he doesn’t want a full-time coaching career. His son, Chase, is a freshman pitcher at UNLV and Maddux wants to spend time watching his games. He also enjoys traveling with his family.
    ...

    “I enjoy working with pitchers,” Greg Maddux said. “If there’s something I can do to help a young guy think about the game more and what he’s throwing and why he’s throwing it, I can help like that.”
    That last part isn't surprising.  Maddux has always been regarded as a fantastic teacher.  Per a story passed along by Eric Stephen at True Blue LA:
    Maddux pitched for the Dodgers in 2006 and 2008, and made a huge impression in planing sessions with pitchers and catchers, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times recalled in 2014:
    Maddux ended his career throwing an 83-mph fastball, yet he could devise a successful game plan for pitchers with the big-time fastball and monster curve he never had.
    Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti recalled Maddux basically taking over scouting meetings and providing each pitcher with a custom plan to approach opposing hitters. Colletti watched in admiration as starting pitchers, generally creatures of silence on game day, sat with Maddux in the dugout and asked for help with that day's lineup.
    "He's the smartest pitcher I've ever been around," Colletti said. "To me, he borders on a baseball genius. You knew you'd only see one or two guys like that in your whole life."
    That's about right.  Even with less than stellar stuff, Greg Maddux could still win games by being smarter than everybody else on the field.  Heck, his knowledge lead to a kind of prescience that was otherworldly.  I've read story after story about how he could predict the exact sequence of events during any inning - from pitch selection to whether the batter swung and made contact to the exact location the ball went after being struck.  It didn't matter if he was on the mound or if he was sitting in the dugout, he just knew.  Via Verducci in an SI piece (as recounted on Deadspin):
    Once while seated in the Braves' dugout as third baseman Jose Hernandez batted for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Maddux blurted out, "Watch this. The first base coach may be going to the hospital." On the next pitch Hernandez drilled a line drive off the chest of the first base coach.

    Another time Atlanta manager Bobby Cox visited Maddux on the mound with runners on second and third and two outs. Cox suggested an intentional walk.

    "Don't worry," said Maddux, who then spelled out to Cox the sequence of his next three pitches: "And on the last pitch I'm going to get him to pop up foul to third base." Maddux proceeded to escape the jam on his third pitch—getting a pop-up to third base that was a foot or two from being foul.
    This guy will be a huge asset, and I feel better knowing he'll be helping out the pitching staff.  On the other hand, we might be approaching a level of grossness within the clubhouse not seen since... well... since he last played for us.  According to many sources, Greg Maddux may very well be the most disgusting person ever elected into the Hall of Fame.  Just get a load of some of these stories.

    Via Todd Dewey at the Las Vegas-Review Journal:
    "Oh, I've got a few (Maddux stories) but I don't think they're fit for print," San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers said. "But he was certainly a prankster and a lot of fun.

    "All I can tell you is 'don't eat the chili.' I can't go any further than that. (Maddux put) foreign objects in the chili."
    ...
    Maddux, known to belch or pass gas during locker-room interviews, also was "a master of strategically timed nose picking and sidling up to an unsuspecting rookie in the shower and urinating on the kid's leg," it was reported last year in an article on ESPN.com.

    "I call him 'The Silent Scumbag,' " Wells said in the story. "You would perceive him to be Einstein because he's quiet and he's always sitting there at his locker with a crossword puzzle. But he's got a silent sickness to him. ... Those quiet guys are the ones you have to watch out for."
    Via Larry Brown Sports:
    I could tell you about how he (allegedly) urinated in the hot tub when he was a young Cubs pitcher, that story told to me years ago by Andre Dawson, who was in the big tub with a couple of other Cubs veterans when young Maddux informed them that he’d relieved himself in it a few minutes earlier.
    On second thought, maybe we shouldn't let him in the clubhouse.

    In celebration of his return to the Dodgers I made the above two fantasy cards of him.  I used a photograph taken from the Lantern/MCT and the 1972 Topps Baseball card design. 

    Per a Dodgers press release:
    The Los Angeles Dodgers today announced the hiring of Hall of Famer Greg Maddux and 19-year big league veteran Raul Ibañez as Special Assistants to the Dodgers’ President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and the entire Baseball Operations Department.

    In their roles, Maddux and Ibañez will assist in all aspects of baseball operations, including scouting, player development and working with the club’s players, both at the Major and minor league levels.

    Maddux, 49, pitched in 23 big league seasons with the Cubs (1986-92, 2004-06), Braves (1993-2003), Dodgers (2006, ’08) and Padres (2007-08), compiling a 355-227 record with a 3.16 ERA in 744 games (740 starts). The four-time National League Cy Young Award winner, eight-time All-Star and 18-time Gold Glover retired with the eighth-most all-time wins and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, his first year on the ballot, with 97.2% of the vote. Following his playing career, Maddux joined the Cubs’ front office in 2010 as an assistant to general manager Jim Hendry before spending four seasons in the Rangers’ organization (2012-15), where his brother Mike was the pitching coach, as a Special Assistant to General Manager Jon Daniels. He also served as the pitching coach for Team USA during the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

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    Blog Kiosk: 2/3/2016 - Dodgers Links - Puig, Bellinger and Brandon McCarthy


    Spring Baseball is just around the corner, and I just can't wait.  So when I came across this vintage 1951 Acme press photo on eBay I knew I had to share it here.  Per the descriptor attached to the reverse:
    Gene Hermanski and Bruce Edwards (right) of the Brooklyn Dodgers oblige with autographs at their spring training camp for Jim Campanis (left) and his younger brother, George.  The youngsters showed up on their bicycle
    Below are more links to check out:
    • This seems like a must see.  Via Jon Weisman at Dodger Insider he points to an episode of "Lost L.A." on KCET that airs tonight 8:30 PM; entitles "Before the Dodgers."  It features Chavez Ravine.  You can also watch it streaming at KCET, here.
    • Via Justin Russo at Dodgers Nation, "Puig Soars To New Heights .. Literally."  Yasiel recently took an helicopter trip around downtown LA.
    • Via Matthew Moreno at Dodger Blue, "Brandon McCarthy Hopes To Return Prior To 2016 All-Star Game."
    “I would like to be back before the All-Star break,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to make a start or two before the All-Star break. If it doesn’t happen that’s fine, I’m mentally prepared for that. I want to use that as our foundation of, ‘This is where I need to get to.’”
    • Apparently, Dodger prospect Cody Bellinger has added some muscle, via his twitter:
    • Check out the newest digital issue of Baseball Magazine here.  You can download it for free.  Its cover story covers the impact Jackie Robinson had in Brooklyn.
    • This is hilarious.  Via Carrabis at Barstool Sports, "Rangers Announce Adrian Beltre Bobblehead Promo With Removable Helmet To Pat His Head."  I really do miss Adrian.
    • I thought I'd pass along the news that LA Kings broadcaster Bob Miller is doing well.  He recently had heart bypass surgery.  Via a tweet from the Kings:


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